Study predicts energy price increases, dirty air if Yankee closes

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(Host) A new study says electricity would be more expensive and the air would be dirtier if the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is closed.

But the study drew immediate criticism from environmentalists. They said the report used faulty methodology to skew the results.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) You can look at the study by the Vermont Energy Partnership as one of many warm-ups to a legislative fight next year over the future of Vermont Yankee.

Yankee’s license expires in 2012. Lawmakers may vote on its future next spring. And the study by the pro-Yankee Energy Partnership tries to make the economic and environmental case for keeping the plant on line.

Brad Ferland is president of the organization.  

(Ferland) "Vermont Yankee is providing a third of Vermont‘s power right now. And if it doesn’t continue after 2012 then at least part of the report is indicating that there will be an increase in price to consumers of between 19 and 39 percent."

(Dillon) The study by Albany, N.Y. consultant Howard Axelrod looked at alternatives to the aging nuclear reactor. Axelrod concludes that renewable sources – such as wind, wood and solar – won’t be able to replace Yankee in the next three years.

The study finds that a natural gas plant could generate enough electricity. But it says the plant would release carbon dioxide and nitric oxide pollution.

Ferland says the state needs to consider the environmental trade-offs as it weighs future energy supplies.

(Ferland) "We’ve got the cleanest carbon footprint in the United States, and that’s because of Vermont Yankee and Hydro Quebec. My belief is that Vermonters want that kind of carbon footprint."

(Dillon) But James Moore of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group says the study fails to account for the dangers of nuclear waste or the plant’s impact on the Connecticut River.

Moore says the study uses flawed assumptions to get to its conclusion.

(Moore) "They grossly over-estimate the cost of renewable energy and the cost of energy efficiency. And they grossly under-estimate the cost that Vermont Yankee is likely to charge moving forward. And despite all of these manipulated assumptions, their worst case scenario still shows that without Vermont Yankee Vermont‘s rate will still be better than the average New England electrical rate."

(Dillon) Entergy Vermont Yankee has not yet told the state’s utilities what its electricity will cost after 2012. So far, the company has said it will simply charge wholesale market rates.

Moore said the market price is a higher number than is assumed in the Energy Partnership study.

(Moore) "Vermont Yankee has gone on the record in front of the Public Service Board suggesting that they sell it at the going market rate — with no premium whatsoever. For this report to assume that they’re going to sell it at half the price they could get selling it elsewhere in New England is laughable."

(Dillon) But Brad Ferland said the study used reasonable numbers that were publicly available. He said the state’s major utilities have asked for bids on energy contracts. He said the response to those bids should provide an accurate prediction of future power costs.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.

AP Photo/Vermont Yankee Corporation,File 

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